1 Alarming . VARIETY. A FILM BY JEREMY SEIFERT. COMPELLER PIC T UR ES FOOD & WATER WATCH. GMO OMG: STUDY GUIDE. SECTION 1: GMOs 101. What are GMOs? Seedless watermelons, tiny oranges and many other produce items we find at the grocery store First approved by the government in 1996, ge- are considered hybrids. While hybrids are usually netically engineered crops, or genetically modified created using low-tech, natural techniques, GMOs organisms (GMOs), have been produced through are created by using complex technology and mov- the application of a variety of laboratory tech- ing DNA in a way that could never naturally occur, niques including in vitro nucleic acid methods (in- usually across species.)
2 Corporating a section of DNA, or multiple sections, into a host cell) and methods of fusing cells that How common are GMOs? would not be able to occur without human manip- Since most corn, cotton and soybeans are now ge- ulation in a lab. Genetic engineering is often used netically engineered (90, 90 and 93 percent, respec- to add a specific trait to a plant or animal, such as tively), it can be assumed that ingredients made resistance to treatment with herbicides or to make from these crops vegetable oils, corn starch, a plant produce its own pesticide to repel insects. corn meal, corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, soy oil, Unlike traditional plant and animal breeding, which soy flour, soy lecithin, cottonseed oil and protein tries to develop better varieties by selecting traits extracts contain GMO content.
3 Most of the from the same species, a genetic engineering packaged foods in American grocery stores contain technique known as transgenesis allows scientists GMO ingredients in one form or another, and most to insert specific genes from any plant, animal or conventional meat animals were fed GMO corn, soy microorganism into the DNA of an entirely different or alfalfa. species, such as inserting fish genes into a tomato. Dairy products from cows treated with artificial Haven't we always modified plants? growth hormones were the first bioengineered an- Do you mean seedless grapes? imal products in the food supply, and the number of GMO animals awaiting government approval, like Biotechnology goes beyond traditional breeding a salmon that is supposed to grow to market size methods (the things farmers have done for thou- twice as fast as non-GMO salmon, has accelerated.)
4 Sands of years, such as breed their best livestock and save seeds from their most productive crops). Selective crop breeding was accelerated by the de- velopment of crop hybridization, which crossbred plants that had desirable traits and helped reverse the stagnating corn yields of the 1930s. Breeders create hybrids by controlling the cross-pollination of two varieties that could naturally breed in the wild so that the desired traits are produced in the next generation. Hybrid seeds were bred within the same plant species until the discovery of the human genome in the 1950s. This breakthrough spurred the development of genetic engineering techniques, which allow breeders to splice genes from very different species.
5 1. GMO OMG: STUDY GUIDE. Other crops that have been genetically engineered include sugar beets (used to make sugar that is in many processed foods), canola, safflower, and cotton (used to make oils used in many processed foods), papaya, squash and sweet corn. Since labeling is not required, you can never be sure whether or not the food you're eating is genetical- ly engineered unless it's certified organic (organic farmers can't use GMOs) or labeled with a verified non-GMO label. Who makes GMOs? Only a handful of chemical and pharmaceutical giants dominate the seed industry. The Big 6 not been tested for long-term impacts on human firms in the seed industry are Monsanto, Dupont, and environmental health or safety, but a growing Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and BASF.
6 These firms are body of research shows that biotech crops can also major chemical companies, and the compa- have troubling health implications including dete- nies sell both the GMO seeds and the herbicides rioration of liver and kidney function and impaired that the seeds are engineered to tolerate (such embryonic development. Additionally, the FDA has as Roundup). In 2009, Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer no way to track adverse health effects in people and Syngenta were the most powerful global seed consuming GMO foods, and because there is no re- companies and also ranked fifth, sixth and first in quirement that foods containing GMO ingredients sales of crop-protection chemicals.
7 By 2009, nearly be labeled, consumers do not know when they are all (93 percent) of soybeans and four-fifths (80 eating them. percent) of corn cultivated were grown from Are GMOs good for the environment? seeds covered by Monsanto patents. GMO crops usually use more pesticides and her- Are GMOs safe to eat? bicides than non-GMO crops, and they can easily The Department of Agriculture oversees the contaminate organic and non-GMO conventional cultivation of GMO crops, the Environmental Pro- crops with unwanted genetic material. Roundup tection Agency regulates the pesticides and herbi- Ready crops (which are engineered to tolerate cides used on GMO crops, and the Food and Drug application of the weed killer Roundup) are known Administration is responsible for the safety of both to increase Roundup (glyphosate) use.
8 Now, super- conventional and GMO food and governs food la- weeds and pests like the rootworm have become beling. Current laws and regulations to ensure the resistant to GMO-affiliated herbicides like Round- human health and environmental safety of GMO up and require many more toxic chemicals to be crops were established before genetic engineering applied to crops. techniques were even discovered, resulting in lax Isn't Roundup safe to use? enforcement, uncoordinated agency oversight and Monsanto's herbicide Roundup is one of 750 weak monitoring after the crops are on the market. products containing the active ingredient glypho- Biotech companies submit their own safety-testing sate, the safety of which has been disputed for data, and independent research on GMO foods years.
9 Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide used is limited because of biotechnology companies' widely in large-scale agriculture, forestry and in- restrictive licensing agreements. GMO foods have dustrial weed control, and in lawn and garden care. 2. GMO OMG: STUDY GUIDE. Glyphosate is also known as a systemic herbicide, The EPA is currently gathering data on the safety of meaning that it is absorbed into every part of the glyphosate the majority of which will come from plant, from the roots to the leaves. a task force representing major agribusinesses . and expects to make a final decision on its registra- Evidence suggests that glyphosate may pose an- tion by 2015. The potential cumulative, long-term imal and human health risks.
10 Nevertheless, gly- risks of glyphosate exposure have not been stud- phosate use on Roundup Ready crops has grown ied. These considerations should be critical in de- steadily, with application doubling between 2001. termining the safety of a product prior to approval, and 2007. Independent research on glyphosate has and not left to attempt to assess once the product linked the chemical with cell toxicity, neurotoxicity is on the market. (including Parkinson's disease symptoms after gly- phosate exposure), cancer and endocrine disrup- Are GMOs good for farmers? tion. Glyphosate also persists in the environment Biotech seed companies claim that their products for as long as a year in soil and on sprayed plants, strengthen farm productivity by improving yields and for more than six months in water and has and reducing costs.